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Merseysiders prepare for return offer after £18.8m plus Hleb starter

EXCLUSIVE
By Wayne Veysey | Chief correspondent

Liverpool have told Barcelona that they want £24.5 (€30) million in cash for Javier Mascherano after rejecting the Spanish club’s opening player exchange offer.

Despite reports that Barca’s opening bid was £12m, Goal.com UK understands that the Primera Division champions offered £18.8m plus Aliaksandr Hleb for the 26-year-old Argentine.

But Liverpool are adamant that they do not want a player-plus-cash deal and will only consider a straight cash offer for the midfielder.

Barcelona are expected to return with a second, improved bid in the next 48 hours as they close in on a transfer that they hope to complete by the end of the week. It is understood that the player has already agreed personal terms with the Catalan giants.

Liverpool sources say the club accept that Mascherano has played his last game for the Merseysiders – the 1-1 draw against Arsenal eight days ago – and appreciate that the player’s value will only diminish if he is held at Anfield against his will until January or next summer.

The Argentina captain told Liverpool manager Roy Hodgson that he did not feel his mind was right to figure in Liverpool’s Premier League match at Manchester City tonight.

Manager Roy Hodgson said before the game: “He's not here tonight because obviously there is some speculation about his future and at the moment his mind isn't right, so it wasn't correct to select him.

"Hopefully matters will get resolved, certainly before the end of the transfer window and I'll have a chance to pick him again, but tonight would not have been a good time to select him."

Hleb has been offered as a makeweight in the deal after failing to make an impression at the Nou Camp following his switch from Arsenal two summers ago.

The Belarus international was told last month that he has no future under Barca coach Pep Guardiola after spending last season on loan with VfB Stuttgart.

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